Day 13 – Two week check-in

Okay, so I set some goals for myself at the beginning of this year. Nothing too crazy (at least I didn’t think so at the time), but nothing ever goes according to plan now does it? After these whirlwind first two weeks of the year, I figured I better do a little check-in with myself and see how things are going.

Goal #1 – Write every day. Surprisingly, so far so good here. Now, I’m not writing the great American novel, or even a whole lot worth reading, but at least there has been time set aside and words being put to paper every single day. Gotta say, I’m proud of myself on this one.

Goal #2 – Write one letter every week. Two weeks down. Two letters written. Boom! Onto the next.

Goal #3 – Read one book a week. First up, Radical Candor by Kim Scott. To be fair, I started reading this just before Christmas, but it was slow going and got set aside with the holiday craziness. I didn’t want to try and start another book until I finished this one, so I decided to count it. (Hey! My blog. My rules.) Great read. Stepping into a new leadership role in my career and hearing about this book from some of the leaders I look up to made me want to read it. A lot of the advice and suggestions should be obvious–things like caring deeply about other people, giving the time and space needed to look at things from multiple perspectives before making big decisions, and the importance of being honest and direct without letting emotion take over. Leadership has become something of a buzzword, and I think a lot of people spend a lot of time talking about leadership without really being able to clearly define what good leadership actually looks like. The book is well-written, and it definitely prompted me to reflect on the people in my life who showed me what a leader should be.

My second book of the new year is Five Plots by Erica Trabold. I found out about this book when I was catching up on some of my writing magazines over the holiday break. Erica Trabold is originally from Nebraska, and the book is a collection of her lyrical essays that explore how her life story was shaped by the Nebraska landscape, just as the Nebraska landscape was shaped by the people who lived and settled there. The writing stunning. Trabold was the winner of the inaugural Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize, and if you take the time to read her debut collection, you’ll see why. Anyone who was born, raised, or feels a connection to Nebraska should pick up a copy immediately. I already ordered one extra copy to send to some family who have moved away and still miss “home,” and I’m sure there will be more orders coming soon. The book is way good good not to share.

Goal #4 – Exercise 30 minutes every day. Well, if I’ve fallen off the wagon anywhere, it’s here. Now, I will say, I was good right up until this weekend when Henry got sick. Some mornings I was waking up at 5:00 to do 30 minutes of rowing and 30 minutes of writing (how’s that for two birds with one stone?). Other days, I was making sure I took a break during the day to get my steps in around campus during lunch, or simply counting the amount of walking I was doing in between meetings and from my car to my office and back toward my daily amount. As busy as last week turned out to be, I’m giving myself a little grace here and saying that I earned two full days of being lazy with my sick kiddo snuggled in on the couch.

Tomorrow’s a new day. Back at it. Let’s go.

Day 7 – Keep writing

Sometimes when I sit down to write, it just seems impossible to get the pen moving. Thoughts circle in my brain, but never fully form. I glance around the room, look at my phone, even close my eyes for some inspiration that never seems to come.

Keep writing.

I put too much pressure on myself as a writer. I always have. It’s the reason I have so many projects started and never finished, the reason I have so many blank journals on my shelves collecting dust. I want the words that that flow and form on the page to be perfect. I don’t want to make mistakes, write something bland and lackluster. I don’t want to spend the time coaxing the words out not the page only to realize that they don’t matter.

That’s a lot of pressure.

That’s a lot of bullshit too.

There’s no such thing as a perfect first draft. Maybe we can come close sometimes, when the right mood hits and the stars align and we have some rare moments of quiet and clarity. But writing–like everything in life–is a process, not perfection. We make do with what we have in the moment. And then we learn and refine and evolve as we go along. And there is immense beauty and growth in that process.

Keep writing. Keep writing.

I return to my mantra whenever I get stuck, forcing myself to keep the pen moving, to push forward until the circling thoughts begin to break apart and reorganize again.

Keep writing.

Some days I fill pages with those words, but eventually something comes. Something always comes. Creativity rewards patience and persistence, and I’m often reminded that it can come from anywhere.

One of the little stumbling blocks I set for myself as a writer is the notion that if I can create the perfect writing space, the words will come. Manuscripts will suddenly get finished. Projects I’ve been slogging through for years will suddenly get polished and published. But my truth is–there is no “perfect” place to write. My place is here, wherever that might be in any given moment. The best thing I’ve ever done for myself is to simply make sure I always have a pen and a notebook with me. All the time.

My favorite spot is still Grand Central Station. There is no place that moves quite like it. But I’ve found inspiration in doctors’ waiting rooms, on bus rides, in airport terminals and hotel rooms, in grocery store lines and food courts. I’m even fond of showing up to meetings 10-15 minutes early and jotting down a few broken thoughts or sentences before people begin to arrive and break the silence.

This morning, I climbed out of bed at 5:00 and had an uninterrupted hour to myself, lounging in one of Richie and Diane’s old floral swivel chairs in the den. Electra circled for five or ten minutes licking her bowl clean, taking a lap of the room (her overgrown nails clicking on the hardwoods), licking her bowl again, and then finally retiring back upstairs to the bedroom. A little while later, I heard movement. The shower turned on. Now, Stevie is in the kitchen, banging cupboard doors open and closed as he empties the dishwasher and makes Cadence’s lunch. It’s time to get ready for another day and it feels good to keep writing.

Keep writing.

Keep writing.

The wee hours

I really should be in bed. It’s been a rough week sleep-wise. Henry is working on another tooth (or three), Stevie was up one night not feeling well and then headed out of town, Cadence ended up in my bed and coughed through the night from her allergies, Electra has been alternating between snoring, howling in her sleep, and dropping noxious gas bombs in the middle of the night, and I…well…I can’t seem to turn my brain off once the kids go to bed and the house finally gets quiet.

Powerpuff Yourself

Yeah, you know I had to do it…

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Words

Call me a geek, but I still get giddy every time I get a writing assignment.

Every single time.

I was still a child when I realized that I see the world in words. To most people they are just sounds, streaks of black on the crisp whiteness of the page. But to me, words are tangible. They have depth and breadth and weight. They hang in the air over conversations. I see them, somewhere in the space between my eyes and eyelids, even when I am falling asleep.

For me, a day without writing–even if it’s just this blog post, or a heartfelt note to a friend–always feels like a day wasted, like maybe I’m not holding up my end of the bargain here on earth.

So yeah, I get excited for any writing opportunity I get, because there’s something about that moment, when I press the pen to paper that makes me feel like all is right with the world.

 

Priorities

After two really horrible nights of sleep (or rather, non-sleep, since Henry let me get maybe 4 hours total), why am I still up? Well, because I found a batch of photos that I haven’t gotten around to processing, and there are a few shots I know I want to add to my archives to use for some upcoming issues of a newsletter at work. Like this one…

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Okay, I seriously need to unplug now.